When you have a good vinyl turntable and a collection of vinyl records, the best way to enjoy them is with an excellent set of speakers. In this post, we’ll discuss what you should look for when you’re buying speakers for vinyl and review ten of the best-value options on the market right now.
Best Speakers For Vinyl – Mini Buying Guide
Vinyl Demands Quality
The biggest difference between buying speakers for vinyl play, as opposed to streamed music or some other source, is the quality of the audio. Most music that you acquire on a computer has gone through compression at some point. For example, music that you obtain through a streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music, as well as music that you find on Youtube all get compressed before you can play it. This happens because those services are trying to preserve memory space, but the side effect is that it removes some of the detail and clarity of the audio. To an audiophile, the difference is very noticeable.
What that means for speakers is that when you are playing compressed audio files, your listening experience will be limited by the compression. As a result, you should look for speakers that are balanced and able to get a powerful response all through the spectrum. With vinyl records, you can get more out of higher-quality speakers that provide greater detail, especially in the deep and midrange.
Of course, there are other things to know too. Some speaker sets are specialized for a particular type of sound, such as bass. Home theater speakers are specialized to provide full surround sound immersion. Others are generalists. The best one for you depends on what kind of music you plan to play.
Important Things To Know And Consider When Buying Speakers For Vinyl
- Phono Pre-Amp? Some turntables have an amp built in and some require a phono pre-amp to prevent too much of a demand from your speakers. I would advise that unless you are using speakers that come with a turntable, a phono preamp is recommended. It can be the difference between a system overloading and greatly enhance the sound.
- Bluetooth Connectivity? A modern turntable might provide bluetooth connectivity options to your speakers. But I would recommend using a wired connection wherever possible for vinyl. The reason being that if you are going Wi-Fi, you are losing the benefit of a raw, analogue connection, and that raw, analogue sound. You lose something with Bluetooth because the connection is entirely digital. If you want high performance and high volumes from your vinyl audio system, stick to wires. That high-end quality sound is something record players were made for, and it’s worth the effort.
The Best Speakers For Vinyl Reviews
The Klipsch R-14M set is a pair of great speakers that each have a 1-inch tweeter and a 4-inch woofer. Their designation as a reference speaker means that they will tend to have a balanced sound, not favoring highs, midrange, or low-end. That positions them well for general use. The sound response is even and consistent with good detail. Each one has a rear-firing bass reflex port.
Note that these best bookshelf speakers are passive speakers rather than active speakers. That means they do not have their own power source and you will need an amplifier to supply them with electricity. Otherwise, they will not work.
In terms of size, the R-14Ms are on the small side. They will do well at filling a small room with sound, but might start to lose force in a medium room. Take this into account depending on where you plan to use the speakers. Their small size also makes them easy to place: you can put them on a side table, a media console, or just about anywhere else. They measure 9.75 inches tall by 5.88 inches wide and 7.5 inches deep.
We would consider this an entry-level product, a best budget speaker system. The price reflects that.
The CR3 from Mackie is an interesting set of small desktop speakers. As the name suggests, they have a 3-inch woofer. Without a tweeter, they will have a little less projection than the R-14M set. On the other hand, there is no crossover effect where the sound shifts from coming from the woofer to coming from the tweeter, so there’s a more consistent, even tone.
The key feature with the CR3 set is the headphone jack on the front that allows you to connect an external device like a phone. Your main objective is, of course, to play vinyl, but it’s always good when you have the option to play from other sources using the same set. If you like the sound of the CR3s, you might as well use them for multiple different cases.
The volume knob is also located on the front and doubles as an on/off switch. There’s also an aux in port on the front. In addition to the bells and whistles, the Mackie CR3 has rather good sound for this tier of speaker. It’s professionally designed for a balanced sound and comes with a wood cabinet for the best possible resonance.
The Edifier R1280T is, like several others on this best speakers for vinyl list, a monitor speaker. Again, that means it strives for balance and clarity. This is ideal for most genres, especially classic rock and other mid to late 20th century music. The R1280Ts have two aux ports for more connections. The volume knob is on the primary unit. This area also has control knobs for bass and treble. Having these knobs provides you with customization, such as the ability to turn up the treble for classical music. That, paired with the wood enclosure, means the R1280Ts offer a wide range of sound.
This set is powered. That means you don’t need any other equipment to get them to work. It comes with speaker wire, which you use to connect the two units, plus an RCA to RCA cable and aux to RCA for flexibility. It even has its own remote control that has a mute, volume up, and volume down control.
The woofer is 4 inches in diameter and it has a tweeter with a half-inch diameter. That also expands its range of voicings, which fits the theme of the speaker.
The 3020 from Q Acoustics is a step up in size and power. It has a 5-inch woofer and then a combination driver that uses a ring and dot design to combine a tweeter and a bass driver into one space. That gives it the broadest range and loudest sound of any speaker so far on this list. It also is the first to feature the full range of three drivers.
The great sounding bass is deep and has a distinct punch to it. The rest of the tone is detailed and powerful as well. In fact, this set of speakers does very well when paired with a subwoofer for more bass. That would let it fill a larger room as well.
The black matte design of the 3020s is a modern, attractive look that looks very nice with black or brown furniture. It doesn’t have special features like extra ports or a remote control, but in terms of volume and faithful sound reproduction, this represents a movement up the ladder relative to the first list entries. The 3020s do need an amp, but they do not need a particularly strong one due to the efficiency of the drivers.
The B6 from ELAC is designed by Andrew Jones, one of the leading names in speaker construction. The woofer is 6.5 inches in diameter, which is another step upward in size and power. In the power department, note that the B6 is a passive speaker that will need an amp. It also has a small tweeter.
There are many different speakers in the 6.5 range for driver diameter, but the B6s stand out from the crowd through the quality of their bass. It’s common for speaker bass to be muddy or lack detail at these sizes, which are still fairly low, but the B6s have excellent bass that does not need a subwoofer. Their performance is of a much higher-end speaker set. That comes from good design as well as the right materials.
To manage the two drivers, the B6s have an 8-element crossover system that ensures the right balance of sound. Other speakers have a distinct crossover frequency, but it’s very hard to detect in the B6. There are no extra ports, but a classical 5-way binding post that allows for connections of many types via speaker wire. That includes a turntable, of course.
The Bronze 2 is another speaker set with a 6.5-inch main driver. It also has a tweeter and a bass driver mounted above and below the driver. The key technology of the Bronze 2 is the C-CAM dished cone that removes the need for a central pole in the driver. This ensures that the speaker can reach higher volumes without distortion.
The hallmark of the Monitor Audio brand is usually high-quality treble tones. In contrast to the attention paid to the bass in the past few listings, the Bronze 2 has a strong, sharp, and detailed treble tone. That’s ideal for classical music especially, but it works well in any genre. If you prefer songs and music that contains a lot of the upper end of the spectrum, then the Bronze 2 is good choice,
The Bronze 2 lacks ports or additional connectivity, but that is increasingly common for larger speakers. With speakers for vinyl, it is speaker wire that is the most important connector. You will need to get an amp or receiver to power the set, of course.
The Diamond 220 from Warfedale is actually a little smaller than the previous couple of speaker sets have been. It has a woofer 5.1 inches in diameter and a 1-inch tweeter. The Diamond 220 is a passive speaker. Despite its small size, an efficient design means that it can fill a medium room with the right amp, which also gives it enough power to put out detailed, high-fidelity sound.
The most unique design element in the Diamond 220 is the drivers, which are made of woven Kevlar. This injects a certain air and space into the sound, creating an engaging soundstage. There is a small amount of crossover that you might hear when moving up in frequency, but it is not major.
The Diamond 220 is built to punch above its weight class and it does accomplish that. It projects more sound than some of its equally-sized peers, which says something about its footprint in your living room. Consider it a good speaker for those who have limited space but still want to enjoy vinyl. Don’t forget that you can drive it with a pretty significant amp without fear of distortion. It has a simple matte black design with a white highlight ring around each of the two drivers.
The 230 from JBL Studios brings us back up to the world of the 6.5-inch main driver. It also has a one-inch tweeter to handle the top end. Each unit has rear-firing bass ports and gold-plated posts for speaker wire.
The 230 benefits from the High Definition Imaging sound design that JBL has developed over the years. That gives the 230 a very broad, deep soundstage without sacrificing clarity or volume.
The speakers are efficient when it comes to power. You can drive them with an amp between 20 and 150 watts. That large range provides you with budget-friendly amp options or choices to optimize performance for your space. A bigger amp will allow for more max volume.
JBL Studio is one of the bigger names in speaker development and design, so a new innovation like High Definition Imaging is worth a look. The resulting soundstage and bass are ideal for vinyl’s warmth and detail. There is no need to add a sub if you go with the 203s, especially with a bigger amp. You will get a powerful, refined bass tone with no adjustments required. These are great speakers for vinyl.
The Aeromax 2 from Cambridge also sits in the world of the 6.5 inch primary driver. However, instead of coming with the standard one-inch tweeter, the Aeromax 2 has a 2-inch tweeter. This significantly enhances both the mids and the treble tones. The bass isn’t far behind either, being rich and clear. The Aeromax 2 can sometimes sound like it loses a little detail in the mix, but it more than makes up for that with the quality of the tone. The crossover is almost impossible to spot thanks to some clever engineering. In terms of fit, it works best with lower tempos and fewer simultaneous voicings so that it can demonstrate its beautiful tone.
The external design of the Aeromax 2 has the classical black matte paired with some white lacquer to highlight the drivers and bass port. That helps the speaker stand out from the mass of black matte designs.
KEF has taken an interesting path with the Q100. The speaker features just one driver spot- a 5.25 main woofer with a 1-inch tweeter located in its center. The objective of this design choice is to make the soundstage more omnipresent so that you won’t hear any differences in volume or tone as you move around the room. It loses a little bass power along the way, but the tradeoff is an interesting one. For example, if you like to play vinyls at parties, the Q100 set will ensure that there is no dead spot or weak zones anywhere.
If you plan to spend most of your time in stationary listening, then this feature probably doesn’t hold as much appeal. The soundstage is good, but not far-and-away better than the competition with the exception of the aforementioned even blanketing of the room.
Consider this a specialist speaker that can offer you an intriguing upside. The sound quality is excellent in general, but it’s the soundstage that makes the Q100 unique.